A travel guide with destinations, experiences and tips provided by my local experience in the French Riviera
As a brief resident I finally got to see what all the fuss was about the French Riviera. Well, I definitely ended up leaving a piece of my heart there, note the girl from Capri who fell in love with the south of France. I moved to Beausoleil, the sidewalk next to Montecarlo but not Montecarlo ( yes a sidewalk divides France from the independent “state” of Monaco) to live my childhood dream of learning French and being somewhat associated with anything French. Now that I am back on the island of Capri I am no longer a train ride away from some beautiful places like Nice, Eze, Antibes, Grasse, Provence and you get the picture. Little did I know at the time that a Pandemic was around the corner, however I still had the chance to further study the french language in Nice and use some free time to adventure myself without a car around the French Riviera.
What I am about to express has nothing to do with me being Italian but I love to be really honest and I must say that the food in the area did not blow my brains. It was somewhat really a chore to find something authentic that would not create a whole in your pocket. With time I figured out how to mesh and understand where, when and how to go about it and accept the fact that charcuterie boards were the safest call. Absolutely no complaints, charcuterie is quite my weakness! This is an honest review of my local experience in the picturesque Riviera.
Lets start of with some must see towns and recommendations:
Appreciate the vivid architecture and old town of Nice
I think Nice is a great way to start off this adventure down south. Its location is perfect for day trips and there are many options for accommodations that can fit everyone’s budget. The beach front is quite rocky and uncomfortable, but hey at least there is one!
Old Town Nice: In the old town you must get lost in the alleys and let every corner, sound and scent impress you. From one alley to another do not be surprised if you end up in front of a majestic church with definitely many elements of surprise! My absolute favorite part of the old town is the Marché aux fleurs market held every morning besides Monday. Here you can find spices, fresh produce, and everything you dream of from a french charcuterie board. The greatest news is that some stands are able to vacuum seal cheeses so that you can preserve and bring back home to show off your newly acquired cheese terms. Top cheese for me at the moment: Camembert, St Felicien, St Marcelin and Point Leveque.
Definitely try Socca at the market or anywhere you can, which is a chickpea flour kind of soft pizza or a Pain Bagnet which is basically a Niçoise salad in a sandwich. There is also a viewpoint above the old town for those who don’t mind a glute workout up the stairs. Last but not least my favorite food stop here is 100% Tacos @nicetacosfrance because never let a great taco moment slip by. If you want to experience a French breakfast moment definitely head over to @creperieletrimaran for a Galette. They are extremely light as they are made out of buckwheat and are typically served with eggs and an infused butter of choice. The french say that drinking Cider with Galettes is non optional and I agree. This is the perfect start to fuel your day.
An interior design moment at Hotel Amour
There are times and places where you just need a great drink at an efficiently designed bar. That moment where you feel on holiday and remind yourself that you are pretty much on the French Riviera and that maybe Elton John might happen to sit next to you. Yes he lives in the area I prayed he would show up like a rocket man. For now I can only cherish this picture I have standing way behind him in the main square of Capri. The designer of the hotel, Andre Saraiva, also designed a signature wine label on the list and when in the south of France Rose cannot be avoided. The menu, Greek, I hope is in the works because it did not stun me like the surroundings but the atmosphere, wine and fried zucchini fritters still gave me a little enlightenment @hotelamourniceplage. When in Paris also head to Hotel Amour for a jaw drop.
Have an Aperitif with locals where you find place on Rue Bonaparte, Nice
This is a very fun area where so many people reunite to have their afternoon drinks and charcuterie with interesting sides.The menus are so interesting you commonly find dishes that technically should not belong on the same menu like thai and Italian. I guess they are hoping that everyone can find that one thing so it was a little experience in itself. As I mentioned before dont expect the best meals of your life here simply mesh in without expectations and you will find yourself singing the french anthem at the end of the night.
Here are the restaurants that I have researched, some tried, and some have been suggested during my stay in Nice:
- Le Plongeoir (high end by the sea)
- 100% Tacos (old town)
- Creperie le Trimaran (Galettes, Old town)
- La Route du Miam (best duck-dinner)
- George’s Roll Seafood (fish rolls)
- Maranna (Brunch)
- Panoï (Bao Buns)
- Marinette (truffle burger )
- Lobsta (brunch)
- O’Quotiden ( natural wines)
- La Merenda (Ex Michelin star restaurateur)
- Le Canon (Natural Wines)
- Le Vingt4 (innovative French & Italian)
- Le Séjour (homemade fois gras)
- Koko Green (Vegan & Raw food)
- Wayne’s (Irish Pub-Happy hour)
- Nomad Bar (Happy Hour 5-7 live music )
- Cave de la tour (1957 locals hangout spot)
- Les Distilleries ideales (wine & charcuterie)
- Cave Romagnon ( artsy wine bar )
- L’Autre Part ( biodynamic wines )
Find a way to the magical towns of Old Eze and Old Rocqerbrune
I believe that our souls crave a little medieval borge moment especially when castles are involved. What are the chances that you can relive that time? These became my happy places when someone came to visit. They are picture perfect and just so pretty. If you have to choose between the two, definitely opt for the old town of Eze. In Eze I recommend at least having a drink at their five star hotel @lachevredor literally built within a castle and overlooks the Riviera. It’s so worth it I promise. For lunch there is a very cute restaurant called Le Nid D’aigle with a garden terrace. There is also a beautiful hike called Nietzsche that is a 4.2 kilometer path that connects the old town of Eze that is situated on top of a high hill to the beach front of Eze. I only recommend walking down and not up either way you will break a sweat!
In Old Roquebrune there are some very cute restaurants where you can appreciate the sunset colors and just walk around. It’s very relaxing and less touristy and if you really love more castle moments there are daily tours provided at the local castle. There is also a path that you can take that connects the beach of Roquebrune with the old town that is also situated on a high hill. I took this hike going up and the stairs never finished but arriving all the way up is extremely rewarding, sweaty, and does wonders for the ego.
Cannes is not what they say it is but there is one reason to go however Antibes is delightful.
I think my problem with Cannes was the expectations I had set. It’s Cannes, how can you not. The town is not my cup of tea besides the old town of Cannes which again offers that medieval flair that is just so unique. The beaches have sand, but note that the sand was imported. For those of you that know me or have read previous guides you know I am a Taco aficionado. I decided to include Cannes because of one of the most memorable food moments of 2020. I am very grateful to those who respect tradition but I also give high fives to those who dare. I had a foie gras taco and I am still talking about it @lokacannes. I don’t want to spoil anything, just know that I am literally still talking about it.
Antibes on the other hand has its own charm. The old town is full of captivating corners and a port full of Yachts that are ready to sail out and provide 5 star services across the Riviera. I was so tempted to become a steward on yachts so somebody please live out this dream as in Antibes you can get certified for it! I have only spent a few afternoons in the area but have a list of places I was recommended by locals so I will share a few and let me know if you try any.
- Côté Terroir ( gorgeous plates)
- Le Petit Escale
- La Ferme au fois Gras
- L’atelier Jean Luc Pele (sweets)
One Rose, two Rose, three Rose Provence!
My amazing mother, now sommelier, came to visit and being the most friendly human on earth had her own set of friends in the area that brought us to two very French vineyards with a car of course.
We are back with the medieval setting but this time in the middle of greenery and mediterreanean herbs. There are two restaurants here, one that is more high end and one that is more casual as this is also a 5 star hotel. There is also the option to do a standing wine tasting in their shop for those who want to experience a few more vineyards and our precious with time. This place is magical, a real French setting and vibe. I felt special here especially when I saw a guest arrive in a helicopter, I hoped it was Elton but yet again no show.
Yet another medieval setting with a beautiful and very old church on the premises. Vineyards all around and there was just a very quiet atmosphere. The tasting is done at the stands where the shop is located so it can be a quick stop. There are sooo many other great vineyards so definitely extend the research because you really need a car to take over Provence. Viator is a trusted resource that I use, I even have my cooking classes offered on the website, so I will leave a link with trusted reviews and top vineyards:
Spend an afternoon in Grasse, where life smells just so good
When you think of Grasse, picture how it could feel for a moment to be surrounded by such soothing scents. That’s Grasse, the world capital of fragrance since the 18th century thanks to perfumeriers like the Fragonard family that has a museum where you can give yourself a really in depth perfume history. Grasse produces over two-thirds of France’s natural aromas (for perfume and for food flavourings). There is an annual Fête du Jasmin or La Jasminade, at the beginning of August if you happen to be there during this time. I sat at a lovely cafe for yet another charcuterie board surrounded by beautiful pink umbrellas that played with the reflection of the sun and truly appreciated this historical town that can be easily accessed by train or bus for the folks that don’t drive.
Here are some food recommendations for Grasse
- O Tablier du Boucher (Butcher shop & restaurant)
- La Cantina (Outside Grasse)
- Les Délicateses de Grasse (Charcuterie shop and restaurant in the center square)
Have some lemon moments in Menton
You will most likely hear more Italians than French here as we are very close to the Italian border. The old town of Menton is cute enough that if you have some extra time it could be worth a visit. There are some more affordable beach clubs like Le Cabane Plage that have very exotic chairs and a decent menu with a view that overlooks the colourful old town. Don’t expect amazing food because you are by the Italian border, stay open minded and have a great day!
For the hiking lovers and experiencing Montecarlo:
Take advantage of the many Littorals ( walks by the sea) in the area. For example If you have to see Montecarlo make sure you take the Cap d’ail littoral walk by the sea and have a drink at the cutest place ever Le Cabanon. Ok I suppose Montecarlo is a place to see since I lived on the other sidewalk. I can say It’s definitely unique and worth a day trip if you extend yourself for an amazing walk on the littoral. There are many points where you can even swim, have a shower and refill your water bottle. Montecarlo also has an artificial public beach if you would like to check that scene out. Between Nice and Montecarlo are also some small towns that have beaches like : VilleFranche-sur Mer, Eze, Saint-Jean Cap Ferret. There is also a very famous sunset spot quite above Monaco called Tête de Chien you would need a car to access this point.
Other great littorals (walks by the sea):
- Nice to Villefranche
- Monaco to Menton
- Check www.alltrails.com for many more hiking trails.
Farewell notes and last tips:
Public transportation is bombastic in the Riviera. You can easily get around by bus number #100 for €1.50, lovely and scenic or by train, still lovely and scenic as both are on the waterfront. You can reach Paris in 6 hours from the Nice train station if you want to include the capital during your holiday. I took this train and half is waterfront and a good portion through the vineyards and Provence. If you happen to take this train make sure you bring food and water. I discovered it the hard way. Beach clubs are very expensive in the area but there are plenty of public beach areas and all the beaches have showers, so I’m proud of that. Before you visit or book any places in France check the opening and closing times as even on the weekends lots of places tend to not open. The French need their rest.
Here are some great Instagram handles that give more in depth and visuals about the areas @visitsouthoffrance @visitcoteazur @frenchrivieraguide. Please feel free to reach out for any questions at all. On my social media in my highlights you can always find virtual info and my real time stay in the south of France. My goal is always for you to enjoy your holiday with no regrets and I am always open for suggestions, feedback and more importantly recommendations.
Ciao for now,